Senate may find a way to seat Burris

Senate Democrats are looking for ways to defuse the standoff that has denied Roland Burris the vacated Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama of Illinois, but maybe not much longer.

While Burris’ paperwork was rejected at the opening of the 111th Congress, he was scheduled to meet Wednesday with the Senate’s top two Democrats — Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and assistant leader Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Knowledgeable Senate officials in both parties said the saga was widely expected to end with Burris being seated. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for Senate members.

The likelihood that Burris, a Democrat, will eventually prevail increased Tuesday after a key chairwoman got behind the former Illinois attorney general, driving a crack in what had been a united front by Senate Democrats against any appointee chosen by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Three weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges in what federal prosecutors said was a scheme to sell or trade Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, the governor shocked Democratic leaders by appointing Burris to finish the final two years of the president-elect’s six-year term.

Blagojevich denies the accusations and has yet to be indicted. There has been no indication that Burris was involved in the alleged scheme, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Democrats have repeatedly said the issue is Blagojevich, not Burris’ qualifications.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, told reporters Tuesday evening that Burris should be seated.

"If you don’t seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," the California Democrat said. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been controller, and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."

In a piece of political theater, Burris, 71, tried and failed Tuesday to take Obama’s seat.

He marched into the Capitol, declaring himself "the junior senator from the state of Illinois," and asked Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson to accept a certification of his appointment signed by Blagojevich. Erickson refused, saying it lacked Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s signature and the state seal.

In Chicago, Burris’ attorneys asked the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday to expedite a hearing on their petition for a court order directing White to certify his appointment.

Burris also was considering a federal lawsuit to force Senate Democrats to seat him.

"Our credentials were rejected by the secretary of the Senate," said Timothy W. Wright III, an attorney for Burris. "We were not allowed to be placed in the record book. We were not allowed to proceed to the floor for purposes of taking oath. All of which we think was improperly done and is against the law of this land."


Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Erica Werner contributed to this report.


  1. adb8917

    Now would probably be a good time for Senator-designate Burris to calmly fold his hands and wait for this process to play itself out. As it already stands, his contribution to the process has been disruptive and fraught with drama — just what Congress doesn’t need while it’s getting organized.

    As I’ve noted before, he shouldn’t be surprised that he’s gotten some heat for accepting an appointment from a tainted governor. That’s a particular price he has to pay for his ambitions. The cautionary tale is that if he expects to get decent committee assignments and an office bigger than a broom closet in the Hart Building, he’d better work at making nice.

    An aside: It would seem Senator Feinstein may be positioning herself to become the next majority leader, which is not of itself a bad thing.


  2. sherry

    Blago has not been indicted, impeached. He is still the governor who refuses to resign. As with eveyone suspected of a crime, he is entitled to be charged and tried in a court of law, not the press.
    There is no evidence the Burris appointment is in anyway tainted.
    Harry Reid, is on tape telling Blago he doesn’t want a black man appointed. What the world?
    The governor has the right to appoint and there is no legal recourse for the Senate not to seat him. They just look incredibly stupid among other unsavory things.
    Reid needs to go. Now.
    Burris needs to assume his appointed role and get on with it.

  3. adb8917

    Where did you get the information that Reid was taped saying to Blagojevich that he didn’t want a black man appointed? First I’ve heard this, and I’d like a reputable news source.